Peter Botsis is our featured artist this month - we had the pleasure of hosting, “The Vibrant Landscapes of Peter Botsis” during June. We took a moment to sit down and have a conversation with Peter about his show, his work, what’s coming up next. Below is an excerpt of that conversation:
Derek Darling (DD): Tell us a little bit about your exhibition at Whitman Works Company. What was the inspiration for those works? What drove you to create these pieces? Right now you have two series of work on display, could you describe the style of each?
Peter Botsis (PB): When I started as an artist in my childhood, I was more interested in comic book illustration. As I grew, I moved into illustration, and then got into realism. Some of my favorite artists were Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, and other more traditional illustrators. That's where my first love and my heart is. As I’ve moved along in my life, I've experimented with many techniques including 3-D, computer graphics, and everything like that.
For this series, I started doing sketches. My daughter saw one and she liked it. I got some praise for these more colorful images and it was nice getting this type of work out of me. I liked playing with color and making it more vibrant.
Back then, I just did a few pieces, creating a series for my daughter and her house. People started saying to me, “Hey I like that work, can you do more?” So I delved into it more and started experimenting. It was a great outlet because the work comes quickly and it's more of a visual thing. A lot of it comes straight from my head as far as the colors that I've used and the combinations that I put together.
DD: Can you talk about some of your different influences?You mentioned Rockwell and a few others. Are there influences that may have steered you towards this new direction?
PB: One artist that heavily influenced me is Wolf Kahn. A friend introduced me to him and I saw that he does these large paintings. He's got one at the Memorial Art Gallery. I wish I had the space to create some large, semi-abstract mural type-things. Right now I don't. But, that was an influence. Other colorful things, and so many illustrators throughout the years have influenced me - from airbrush artists to pastel artists to fine artists.
DD: Will you continue with this kind of work or are you thinking about trying something new, moving onto something different? What's next for you?
PB: If I get the space, I'd like to create some bigger paintings. I think that would be more commercially successful for me and also more fun to get involved in. But I need a place where I can be messy - really slap the paint together and be more expressive. That's what intrigues me. Instead of the tight, highly-rendered pieces I've painted in the past, where I feel somewhat limited. They're time consuming. I enjoy them at the end, but I don't have the same passion and excitement that I get with more abstract pieces. With this style, sometimes I don't know if the piece is gonna work or not. It’s fun to see what'll happen and I can just go back and forth to them. With this more experimental process, you never really know when you're done.
Other than that I'm heading into a graphic novel of a comic book series with a friend who's a writer. I did a children's book with him a few years ago. That's my next big project.
DD: When do you think that'll be done?
PB: In about six months. It's gonna take a while because there will be 96 illustrations. So I need to start it and get it to a certain level where I feel it's show-worthy. Then we’ll take it to different comic conventions or places that publishers are at and see if there's any interest in hiring me or signing a publishing contract for the novel. Otherwise, I might just go the self-publishing route with it. Eventually , I'm going to publish it, whether I have to self-publish or give it to somebody else to do it.
DD: What kind of graphic novel is it? What's the theme?
PB: It’s this serial killer who wants to be famous. Actually, in the beginning I thought it was a little bit over the top because, well…why would somebody want to go out and do all these crazy serial killings for publicity? But it goes with the times. Remember Cunanan and the Versace killings? This is the same sort of guy who's self-absorbed. He finds out that his girlfriend has a telepathic ability to see things that enable him to get away with murder, literally. He decides to commit murder to become famous and goes after certain types of celebrities that are in the limelight. He's trying to make a name for himself with this killing spree. It's also about the detective who tracks him down with the help of another psychic while developing his own psychic abilities, which are manifested in his hunches. He's always had this knack of knowing certain things and feeling things. So, it's that type of a novel.
DD: Sounds great. We can’t wait to see it finished. What would you say to an aspiring artist or a young person getting into the art field?
PB: As a teacher, I've always said that art’s gotta be more than just a vocation and a career, it's gotta be a passion. You can't look at it like, “How much money am I gonna make doing this?” You’ve got to be drawn to it. I like playing basketball, but I'm not gonna try to become a pro because I know the difficulties of it. As an artist, there will be challenges and the best thing you can do is be true to yourself. Do what you want to do and the rewards will come when they come. The biggest reward will be your self-satisfaction. I find that if I don't draw or paint, I get depressed. I'm lacking something. Something's missing.
DD: I think that is a common theme among a lot of artists. Is there anything else that you want to say about your work or the current show?
PB: I hope whoever goes and sees the show will enjoy it and come away with a feeling that they got a chance to experience somebody's personal vision. I appreciated the people that came [to the opening]. They stood there and studied some of the work. It gives me a lot of pleasure when people enjoy my work. Sometimes as an artist, it's almost like you're a storyteller, or you're a comedian, or some type of some person in the entertainment field. Although, I do it for myself, I like to feel that someone's appreciating my work.
That always gives me a lot of satisfaction rather than just having the work for myself. I'm driven to do it, but I there’s an exhibitionist part of me that really likes to have other people enjoy it, too. I've enjoyed other artists. I'm reading right now “My Adventures As An Illustrator” by Norman Rockwell. I've also read “The Letters of NC Wyeth”. I get inspiration and interest and am fascinated to hear about an artist's insights.
DD: That’s the purpose of doing these interviews. Hopefully we can learn from each other and also see that we have a lot of similarities too.
PB: There's a common thread between a lot of artists. Artists are the ones that stick with it - they are drawn to it and they can't escape it. Even if they become doctors or lawyers, you may find out later on they've retired and become painters. They just have to do it- it's hard to escape. It's their passion.
DD: Absolutely. Thanks again for your time and for sharing this great series of work with us. We will be looking for that graphic novel from you early next year.